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University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series

Faculty of Law, UNSW
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Cossins, Anne --- "Time Out for Longman: Myths, Science and the Common Law" [2011] UNSWLRS 34

Last Updated: 13 October 2011

Time Out for Longman: Myths, Science and the Common Law

Anne Cossins, University of New South Wales

This paper is available for download at


This paper was published in the Melbourne Univeristy Law Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp.69-105, 2010. This paper may also be referenced as [2011] UNSWLRS 34.


Because a sexual assault complainant’s testimony is often uncorroborated, sexual assault trials are replete with common law warnings that are designed to draw attention to the unreliability of the complainant’s evidence, particularly where there has been a delay in complaint. This article examines the validity of such common law safeguards in child sexual assault trials. A detailed review of the psychological literature about the patterns of disclosure of sexually abused children reveals that delay in complaint is a typical feature of child sexual abuse. Accordingly, common law warnings about delay in complaint, such as the Longman warning, do not adequately consider the context in which child sexual abuse, and its disclosure, occur. This article argues that the Longman warning, and other similar warnings, should be abolished. It examines the limitations of the warning and the legislative attempts that have been made to mitigate its impact and makes recommendations for future reform.

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